It ain’t over till it’s over. When you come to a fork in the road, take it. If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
Everyone knows Yogi Berra, the beloved American icon and Baseball Hall of Famer, whose words of wisdom, called Yogi-isms, are national treasures.
In “My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball,” Dale Berra describes his book and tribute to his late father who passed in 2015 as painful, joyous and a celebration of the lasting love of an extraordinary dad.
Growing up in Montclair, N.J., Dale and his two older brothers, Larry and Tim, all became professional athletes. Dale was a key member of an exceptional Pittsburgh Pirates team, playing shortstop for several years before he was traded to the New York Yankees and briefly united with his dad.
Dale’s journey, one of success mixed with addiction, is an inspiring triumph of family and the power of love. His memoir “My Dad, Yogi” is a must-read for baseball fans and fathers and sons everywhere.
In a phone conversation with Dale, he shared with the AJT, “There’s been a million stories and books about my dad. He is a national icon, but no one had heard from a family perspective and what kind of father and person he was away from the ballpark.”
Yogi was a first-generation American, born in 1925 to Italian immigrant parents. With an 8th grade education, he went to work to help his family and in 1943 joined the Navy and ended up at D-Day storming the beaches of Normandy. A 15-time All-Star, three-time American League MVP Award winner and a 10-time World Series champion, he played in 14 worlds series and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Yogi Berra was beloved both on and off the field.
In “My Dad, Yogi,” Dale honestly discusses his drug use and lightning-bolt intervention from his father that turned it all around 30 years ago. Starting in the Majors, Dale was 22 years old with a bright career ahead of him. When he began using drugs, it was cut short. Cocaine took Dale’s promising career away, and it could have taken his life too if it wasn’t for his father’s love. Dale tells the riveting story of how Yogi inspired his complete sobriety. “From that moment on, I have never done another drug and that was 30 years ago. I chose family,” the junior Berra relayed.
When Yogi Berra wasn’t playing or coaching, he was home in the New Jersey suburbs, spending time with his beloved wife Carmen and three sons. “We grew up not feeling privileged, with Dad’s friends dropping by for a game of catch and dinner, like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.” The gloves, signed balls and other items his Dad brought home were used and enjoyed, rather than saved for their value one day.
When I asked how he got the name Yogi, Dale responded, “When Dad was a kid and his entire life, he folded his arms and legs sitting like a yogi from India, meditating. Someone called him on it and said he looked like an Indian yogi, and the name stuck.”
Yogi’s days of retirement were spent greeting visitors daily at the Yogi Berra Museum. He died in 2015 at a well-lived 90 years of age. Dale leaves us with this about his famous father: “Dad taught us all about life with his Yogi-isms: ‘If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.’”
Dale Berra presents his memoir Nov. 10 at the Book Festival of the MJCCA.